The Welbeck Project – Jim Smith

This week the club welcomed Jim Smith, retired fireman from Cumnock and the man behind the project to restore an original, Welbeck, steam-driven fire engine which had lain, almost forgotten, in bits in an Edinburgh basement. That was where Jim accepted the gift offer and the challenge of acquiring and restoring the engine to its former glory. In his own words, it was something of a jigsaw puzzle since there was no design manual and a previous attempt at restoration had been abandoned, leaving a heap of random components to be transported to his family farm workshop.

The 1890 Shand-Mason, horse-drawn fire engine was built for the 6th Duke of Portland in response to a fire which had ravaged his Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire in 1990. It used a novel, vertical engine to produce the steam and power the pumps.

Jim and his local colleagues already had plenty experience in rebuilding machines and engines to display at the Cumnock Heritage Centre, but the fire engine was something different requiring a deal of research and specialist knowledge along with help from engineering firm Babcock & Wilcox. However, the team stuck to its task and completed the wonderful restoration in time for its first outing at Irvine Maritime Museum.

Charlie Steele delivered the vote of thanks to Jim and acknowledged his great accomplishment in rebuilding the engine which had been a big leap forward for the technology of that time.

Jim Smith with Jimmy Begg